Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 January 2003
It was June 1940. The Second World War was already raging in full swing in its devastation. A young man not yet 20 set out on a 500-mile train journey from the coastal city of Vishakapatnam, India, to Calcutta, the second largest city of the British Empire, after obtaining a first-class first degree in mathematics and with a glimmer of hope of finding a job in the military. The young man was not so lucky; he was deemed too young for the job. However, while in Calcutta, through a chance encounter, he visited the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) founded in 1931 by Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, a Cambridge-trained physicist. As a last resort he applied for a one-year training program in statistics there. Very promptly he received a positive reply from Professor Mahalanobis admitting him to the Training Section of the ISI from January 1, 1941. This young man was none other than perhaps the most well known statistician in the world today, Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao (or simply Dr. Rao, as he was universally known to his students and colleagues at the ISI. The “professor” title was reserved for Mahalanobis). Such was the beginning of his spectacular career in statistics, a field chosen as a last resort, and he never looked back.